German Catholic Docs: We Can Cure Your Gayness!

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday June 7, 2011

Though no credible medical experts promote the idea that being gay is a disease -- the American Psychological Association struck homosexuality from its list of pathologies in 1973, and other nations, along with the World Health Organization, have followed suit -- German Catholic physicians are saying that they can "cure" their so-called "warm brothers" with a homeopathic course of sugar pills, reported on June 5.

"The Union of Catholic Physicians (UCP) admits that 'homosexuality is not an illness,' " noted the article, "but suggest that they can help patients suppress their sexuality with none other than sugar pills.

"Apparently, the organization is seeking to redefine the term 'sugar in his tank,' " the article added.

So-called "reparative therapy" or "conversion therapy" purports to "free" gays from their "homosexual lifestyle." Some groups, most of them religiously based, also promote the notion that through prayer and psychotherapy, gays and lesbians can "convert" themselves into heterosexuals.

Some so-called "ex-gays" claim that they have been able to put their same-sex urges behind them and enjoy heterosexual relationships; others say that being "ex-gay" means constant struggle with their own innate desires. For others, the "conquering" of same-sex urges comes only at the cost of suppressing all sexual desire.

While human sexuality may feature some degree of plasticity, especially in adolescents (who frequently go through a phase of sexual experimentation with, and attraction to, others of the same gender), most mental health professionals view homo- and heterosexuality as innate qualities of individuals.

One way of looking at human sexuality, espoused by the American sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey, proposes that each individual falls somewhere on a "scale" of sexual orientation, the extremes of which exclude attraction to either the opposite gender or the same gender; in the middle, there is room for some degree of bisexuality.

Indeed, there is some evidence to show that at least some individuals identifying as gay or lesbian might refocus their sexual energies on the opposite sex; what is unclear is whether those individuals were innately, and essentially, gay or lesbian to begin with.

But what alarms GLBT equality advocates are attempts from religious and social conservatives to paint gays and lesbians as having "chosen" their sexuality -- an argument that makes even many heterosexuals uncomfortable, because it suggests that straights could also have "chosen" to be gay.

Even so, the argument that sexuality is a choice is used repeatedly in efforts to deny gay and lesbian families and individuals equal access to rights and protections enjoyed by virtually every other demographic, including access to marriage rights.

In Germany, gays enjoy access to limited legal recognition for their families, but the idea of being sold a sugar pill to "cure" homosexuality has the GLBT community there up in arms.

"The offerings are dangerous," Renate Rampf, of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, said, according to English-language German news source The Local on June 11. "They use the insecurities of homosexual or bisexual young people and their parents. All serious experts agree that sexual orientation is already evident in early childhood."

"We know of many people with homosexual tendencies in spiritual and psychological distress," Winkelmann said. "If someone is unhappy, sick, or in distress then he or she should be able to find opportunities to find help on our website."

An online version of German magazine Der Spiegel reported on the claims made by the association of religious doctors.

"The religious association, which calls itself the 'voice of the Catholic medical community,' writes on its website that while 'homosexuality is not an illness,' a host of treatments are available to keep such 'inclinations' at bay," Spiegel Online International reported on June 2.

"Possibilities include 'constitutional treatments with homeopathic tools ... such as homeopathic dilutions like Platinum,' 'psychotherapy,' and 'religious counseling," the article continued.

"Among homeopathy's controversial treatments are the prescription of 'Globuli,' tiny pills that consisting mostly of sugar."

"We know about a number of people with homosexual feelings who find themselves in a spiritual and psychological emergency and suffer greatly," stated the leader of the Union of Catholic Physicians, Gero Winkelmann. "If someone is unhappy, ill or feels they are in an emergency, they should be able to find options for help with us."

The group has parsed its message in a sometimes-confusing manner, offering a "cure" for a condition it acknowledges is not actually a disease, and operating under the aegis of being a Catholic organization although Winkelmann also said that the association's view of gays was not a matter of Church teaching, but rather one of personal opinion.

"This is not about outing or intolerance," the association's website tells readers, reported on June 3. "It's a Christian and medical contribution to an age-old issue."

"To me, this does not qualify as a medical contribution and it is intellectually dishonest for Winkelmann or his association to pretend that it is," wrote the author of the Care2 article, Steve Williams. "The APA did not consider homeopathic 'cures' for homosexuality," Williams went on to add, "but it can be reasonably assumed it would maintain its stance against conversion therapy."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.